There is a man in New York who you admire a lot.
He is funny, witty, knowledgeable and community oriented.
His name is Steve Brill, but most people and media knows him by â€œWildmanâ€.
He describe himself as a ‘naturalist’ (whatever that means) and runs tours of city parks and accessible forests teaching people how to recognize and use wild plants.
Steve ‘Wildman’ has been offering foraging tours for decades, starting off in the mid 80′s in Central Park, New York, when famously got arrested by the Park Rangers for un-authorized harvesting.
The Wildman website is a joy to surf, so much is there.
You love the weeding page, the arrest page with a picture of the fingerprints taken by the Central Park Police Station, the snippets of the various TV show the Wildman now hosts, and the amount of information on plants, mushrooms, recipes and articles written on the subject is enormous!
Below are the first five paraghraps of a particularly well written article from the Chicago Tribune, 1985, By Kenneth Clark , which you can get in its integrity here.
New Yorkâ€”Steven Brill bills himself as "the Wild Man" but doesn't look like one. Perched on his 10-speed bicycle, eyes shielded by a pith helmet and backpack loaded with gardening tools, field guides and botanical drawings, he more closely resembles the scholarly sortâ€”bearded, bespectacled, articulate and quirky.
But one habit sets him apart: Steven Brill eats weeds. Not only does he eat weeds, but to the everlasting consternation of New York Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, whose city park rangers hunt him as if he were a fox with designs on the henhouse, Brill is busy teaching other New Yorkers to eat weeds as well. He walks his students through the city's parks, where they collect mushrooms, nuts, berries and myriad edible greens and considers his work a public service.
â€œHis activities are completely illegal,â€ Stern said. â€œHe picks flowers and shrubs and he serves them to his clients. The parks are to enjoy, not to destroy.â€ â€œIts fun to forage,â€ Brill said. â€œGrown-ups like it. Senior citizens like it, little children just go crazy. I can prove that in the five years Iâ€™ve been doing this, every single plant stand Iâ€™ve ever approached is still there and flourishing. Iâ€™m not backing down. If we leave our parks in the hands of the politicians, they'll continue doing what they're doing and destroy everything.â€
In Brillâ€™s view, what the politicians are doing, locally nationally, is exploiting the environment for development and recreation that consists of nothing more than walking from Point A to Point B, then sitting down and having a beer and a cigarette.”
Brill, who calls Stern â€œa former city councilman with no training whatsoever in botany or the ecology,â€ especially objects to the Park Departmentâ€™s determination to keep its open areas, from Central Park to the seashores of Brooklyn, pruned like lawns rather than allowing nature to take its course. Such pruning, Brill said, eventually will leave New York’s green and wooded stretches eroded, sterile and devoid of diversity.
You strongly reccomend the Wildman Website, if not going to one of his tours, but for most of us around the world, documentation is the only thing we can enjoy.
The Wildman knowledge doesn’t come from any specific background, but rather from all of the available information out there. Would it be him an example of trans-cultural shaman?
You guess Steve would prefer the term ‘enviromental educator’.